Defense Rests Without Graner Testifying

By  | 

The defense for Spc. Charles Graner Jr. rested its case Thursday without the accused ringleader of abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison taking the stand.

The jury of four Army officers and six senior enlisted men was expected to begin deliberating after closing arguments Friday.

Graner's lawyers had indicated earlier that Graner would probably be the final witness, and that he would offer his version of what occurred in a scandal that stirred outrage against the United States around the world.

But defense lawyer Guy Womack said the other witnesses provided all of the evidence necessary to make the case that military and civilian intelligence agents controlled Abu Ghraib and ordered Graner to soften up detainees for questioning.

"We came in with a checklist of things we wanted to present to the jury," Womack said. "Once we accomplished that, there was no reason to continue."

Graner, a 36-year-old reservist from Uniontown, Pa., is the first soldier to be tried on charges arising from the Abu Ghraib scandal. He had appeared glum in recent days, but outside court he said: "I feel fantastic. I'm still smiling."

He is charged with offenses including conspiracy, assault and committing indecent acts and could get 17 1/2 years in a military prison.

Among other things, Graner is accused of stacking naked detainees in a human pyramid and later ordering them to masturbate while other soldiers took photographs. He also allegedly punched one man in the head hard enough to knock him out, and struck an injured prisoner with a collapsible metal stick.

In testimony Thursday, a former guard at Abu Ghraib testified that intelligence officers wanted detainees roughed up there, and that Graner did not take part in a number of the abuses he is accused of committing.

But the witness, former Spc. Megan Ambuhl, admitted under cross-examination that she had had a brief sexual relationship with Graner and remains a close friend.

"And you don't want your friend to go to jail?" asked Maj. Michael Holley, the prosecutor.

"No, sir," she answered.

Ambuhl, who made a plea deal with prosecutors regarding her own actions at Abu Ghraib, testified that intelligence officers directed the prison's guards to rough up and sexually humiliate detainees, and that the guards were praised for their efforts.

On one occasion, she said, an intelligence officer known as Steve told guards to "break" a prisoner known as al-Qaida, who was believed to have valuable information.

"Steve told us that we were doing a good job and that breaking al-Qaida would save a lot of lives," she said.

Another time, she said, two military intelligence officers told Graner to physically abuse a prisoner in a shower.

Ambuhl also said she lied to investigators who sought to search her personal computer for photos and other evidence of abuse.

Sgt. Kenneth Davis later told the jury about an incident in which intelligence officers stripped three detainees accused of raping a teenage boy at Abu Ghraib and forced them to crawl around the prison floor.

Davis said he was disturbed by the incident and reported it to his platoon leader.

"I said military intelligence was doing some pretty weird things with naked detainees," he said.

On Wednesday, the court heard testimony from an Iraqi detainee who admitted he simply could not be sure whether Graner was following orders to beat him.

"I was continually being beaten all the time, I don't remember," Mohanded Juma said. "All I care about is to save myself."